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Pain and Perfume

I seem to be living in an amazing window in my life, a time when I am connected as never before in so many arenas, be that within the Institutional Church, community politics or the marketplace; and yet, my perspective of purpose has changed radically.

Yesterday, as I sat with a very dear friend, a journeyman, trusted professional and scholar, one with whom I could laugh and share my deepest thoughts, I rejoiced at just such a treasure: a true friend. Then last night, as I sat in the County Commissioners swearing in ceremony, I watched as my brother and other friends took their different oaths of office. I found myself wondering where God might be taking our community. He is in control you know! It was a warm moment, as I was greeted by friends, some of whom I had not seen since my last campaign.

Then even later in the evening, talking through matters with my own offspring, so very well positioned for impact; the joy of legacy unfolds with John Luther, my new grandson, among us!

While I write, my mind recalls a photo retrieved just yesterday, my paternal grandparents sitting in a swing on their front porch, a Sabbath habit for them. My grandmother’s humility and servant heart had been captured in print, as she sat in a cheap cotton dress beside a hard working spouse. My grandpa, whose initials I carry, resting beside her dressed in his bib overalls. Both knew the toil of recovery from the tremendous losses imposed by the depression days of the late thirties.

That is the proud stock from which I came. My own life in so many ways is now much more positioned than theirs; their virtue also transferred through my own parents. That virtue, a more valuable gift than any meager possessions inherited. What you hear is the gratefulness that seems to be in my heart this morning. On top of that, the fact that God continues to faithfully awaken me early to spend time in prayer. That too is another gift of heritage, that I know that prayer works, and yes, that I was taught how to pray.

The very thought that I can engage in intimate moments with the God of the Universe; be reinforced with the love demonstrated by Christ Jesus; reach out to surround my friends with grace and cover, whether my friends in Bethlehem or Beirut, or my dear brother in King, and yes, my daughter just across the creek from me. I am blessed beyond words as I cover their lives with love.

I am full this morning with the awareness of how good God has been to me. What he has brought me through to get me to this moment.

Early this morning I read and reposted one of those prefab Facebook posts which read, “Everyone has a chapter in their life they don’t read out loud!” I certainly have multiple chapters in the book of my life, chapters read only to God, as I have poured through the pain of my own errors. Not to speak of the hard to come by forgiveness, as I struggle to live as a broken person on a globe full of broken humans. Being broken among the broken does however provide a certain privilege. That privilege Isaiah described as the “oil of Joy”, perhaps a type of spiritual perfume made possible only through God’s grace!

Those words from Isaiah 61 were used by Christ himself, as He patterned a life we all may participate in:

“The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners,

to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn and provide for those who grieve in Zion— to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor.

They will rebuild the ancient ruins and restore the places long devastated; they will renew the ruined cities that have been devastated for generations.

I trust you sense a thrill in my writing, my life seemly now on a flight path toward some grand moment of crescendo. A moment perhaps when the oil of joy is fully and finally released, long hidden in a heart hot in pursuit of God’s love; a love demonstrated best by Calvary’s Christ.

Hebrews 11:16, long the motivation for my community engagement, may be nearing fruition:

“Instead, they were longing for a better country–a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.” NIV.

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